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Playing With Japanese Songs: Politics Or Pleasure?

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Chapter Summary

This chapter presents some pointers for the reading of Japanese poems which are meant to indicate a few of the difficulties in the process of interpretation. Once look at the alleged "first" Japanese song, one can actually find two different versions which appear in two of the most ancient chronicles of Japan, the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki. Essays on poetry known in Japanese as karon (debates on poetry) agree that the source of poetry in the Yamato language is a poem by a deity, Susanoo no Mikoto, the mischievous brother of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu. It would be difficult to find an "aesthetic" reading of poetry that is not informed by some ideological agenda. When it comes to Chinese and Japanese poetry, the rule of thumb suggests that while Chinese poetry is overtly political, Japanese poetry is about cherry blossoms and willow trees.

Keywords: cherry blossoms; Japanese song; Yamato language



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